|Bruce Umbaugh at Webster.edu|
|Philosophy on the Web|
By Bruce Umbaugh
Monday, August 19, 2002
Mind, Freedom, and Identity
Introduction to Philosophy
Fall 1, 2002
Tu Th 1:00-3:00
Pearson House Room 3
Prof. Bruce Umbaugh
On eight-week courses
Other topics and policies
First philosophical worksheet assignment
We have two main objectives for this course. First, we seek to develop in students an understanding of some philosophical issues concerning humans and minds. For example, is the mind like a computer program? What are the implications if it is? Could there be machines that think? Are we free to act, or are our choices determined for us? What is it to be me? What makes any life (mine in particular) valuable, meaningful, worth living? We will consider these questions and various related ones.
Second, we fancy that we will improve students' abilities to think. This course is meant to exercise your mind (whatever it may be). It is meant to improve your ability to use your mind critically.
This course is coded for the "Critical Thinking" and "Humanities" General Education Goals. As such, it aims at systematic examination and evaluation of arguments, and also at introducing students to some "great ideas."
Some of the reading in this course is challenging, and the ideas we will consider are sometimes provocative and demanding. Be careful. Be patient. I have no reason to think that the material in this course is too difficult for any student who tries seriously to master it.
I do think that those students who seriously engage themselves in our coursework will learn much and will acquire the ability to see the world in new ways. At minimum, students who complete the course successfully should be able to discuss critically some of the major questions taken up in the course and answers to them.
The Mind's I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul, Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett, composers and arrangers.
Notes from Underground, by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Additional readings will occasionally be distributed in class.
As you know, this course is being given in an eight-week session. Each class meeting must account for the equivalent of one or more weeks' work during a 16-week term. In order to survive this class, you must be prepared to think. If you engage yourself in thinking about the topics posed in the class, you will be fascinated by our readings and discussion. If you want not to think . . . or if you do not intend to work hard . . . the drop deadline looms right ahead.
Prelude. What are the issues? Starting to think about the mind. Read "Introduction" and Borges, "Borges and I" (1 in The Mind's I), as well as the editors' "Reflections" that follow, in class. Worksheet due.
Thinking machines. Read Turing, "Computing Machinery and Artificial intelligence" (4), and the editors' "Reflections" that follow. Worksheet Two due.
Thinking machines. Read Hofstadter, "The Turing Test: A Coffeehouse Conversation" (5), and the editors' "Reflections" that follow. Worksheet Three due.
Thinking machines. Read Miedaner, "The Soul of the Mark III Beast" (8), Rucker, "Software" (16), and the editors' Reflections. Worksheet Four due.
Thinking machines. No new reading.
Thinking machines. Read Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene" (10), and the Reflections. Worksheet Five due.
Selves and will. Read Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground. Worksheet Six due.
Selves and will. Read Dennett, handout. Worksheet Seven due.
Selves and will. No new reading. Worksheet Eight due.
Selves and will. Read handout. Worksheet Nine due.
Minds and sums of parts. Read Hofstadter, "Prelude . . . Ant Fugue" (11), and the Reflections. Worksheet Ten due.
Subjectivity and creating complex selves. Read Nagel, "What is it Like to be a Bat?" (24), and the Reflections. Practice exam.
Subjectivity and creating complex selves. Read Hofstadter, "A Conversation with Einstein's Brain" (26), and the Reflections. Worksheet Eleven due.
Subjectivity and creating complex selves. Read handout. Optional: Read Searle, "Minds, Brains, and Programs" (22), and the Reflections. Study questions distributed.
Subjectivity and creating complex selves. Read Nozick, "Fiction" (27). Worksheet Twelve due.
The course is over, but Fall Recess would be a good time to pick up The Mind's I and read one of the fine pieces we neglected, perhaps Smullyan's "Is God a Taoist?" or Zuboff's "The Story of a Brain."
Philosophical worksheets are meant to record your engagement with, thinking about, and answers to, central questions raised and texts read in the course. Attention to the worksheets stands to be rewarded not only via the portion of the grade set aside for them, but also in better preparation for the final examination.
The philosophical worksheets are not a notebook; do not use them to substitute for your usual notes on lectures, discussion, and readings.
Besides completing the worksheets distributed to you, and besides taking notes on readings and discussion, you should also keep your own record of your responses to readings, discussion, and other class experiences.
Attendance is required. Even in classes where it is not, there is ordinarily some correlation between active attendance and good grades. It should be obvious that information will presented in class which is not to be found in our textbooks. One example is class discussion; another is lecture. In addition, we will screen films (one of which you are unlikely to have available elsewhere) and engage in other activities in class that supplement your own reading and thinking.
Collegial participation is important. It is not mere attendance I aim to reward--though failure to attend will be penalized--but rather active attendance that benefits both you and your classmates. Thirty percent of your grade is set aside to reflect your contributions to class discussion, your aid to classmates, and other collegial acts. In your absence, you cannot earn any such merits.
The final examination will be given on October 10. You will be asked to write essays to display both your knowledge of particular authors and positions we have studied and also your ability to discuss over-arching issues taken up in the course.
Philosophical worksheets . . . . 40%
Collegial participation . . . . . . . 30%
Final examination . . . . . . . . . .30%
Final grades will be determined according to the percentage of total points accrued through the term. The distribution of grades might justify "curving" the grade scale slightly. Even so, from my experience, it is unlikely that a score much below 90% will earn any form of "A," and it is highly unlikely that a score below 50% will earn any passing grade. Precise cut-off points will depend on the distribution of scores among class members. Finally, note that I reserve the right to reward students who have attended class faithfully and made significant contributions.
A philosophical worksheet will be accepted one day late provided that (1) you were present in class, and (2) you have not previously submitted late work. To submit work one day late, deliver the relevant pages to the main office of the Pearson House in person, or FAX them to me at (603) 649-2408, or mail them to me (Bruce Umbaugh, Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood Ave., St. Louis, MO 63119) so as to be postmarked the day following our regularly scheduled class meeting.
If you are absent from class, work may be submitted one day late subject to condition (2), above, but also (3) that I was notified of your absence before class and (4) that you submit a good, written excuse when handing in your work. The same procedures as noted above are to be followed for work to count as only one day late.
Since attendance is required, less than sterling excuses for absence will result in a deduction of fifty percent of the highest possible grade. Of course, no credit for collegial participation can be earned in your absence from class.
Communicating with me
My office phone number is 968-7172. It comes equipped with voice mail, which is handy for leaving me messages. If you have a need to speak to a human being, and I am not available by phone, the main number for Pearson House is 968-7170. FAX transmissions can be sent to 968-7173. My home number is listed in the white pages, but I ask that you not call after 7 p.m. Internet e-mail may be sent as well. In short, even if you only come to campus at 12:59 p.m. for this very important class, it is easy to speak with me about the course. Please do.
You are students at a university. I expect you to do your own work and not to rely on the work of others. Please feel free to work with one another to understand the material presented in class or in the readings. Nonetheless, any student plagiarizing, cheating on an exam, aiding another student to cheat, or committing any other act of academic dishonesty will be referred for appropriate disciplinary action. Please consult with me if you have any questions in this regard, either about your own work or that of another person.
Here is a first assignment. When directed to do so in class (after questions about the course and the syllabus have been answered), think about the questions below and write in response to them.
Ask yourself the following and answer:Is there really a me? Philosophically speaking, who am I? What makes me me? What is it worth (to me) to be me? What would it be more valuable to be?
Write as much or as little as you are able at this point. We will return to the issue again in the course.
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